Data integration at the water–health nexus

Data integration at the water–health nexus

Confalonieri, U. E., & Schuster-Wallace, C. J. (2011). Data integration at the water–health nexus. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 6(3), 512-516.

Water is essential for life and well-being but if rendered unsafe, it can pose serious threats to human population health. The World Health Organization has estimated that waterborne diarrheal diseases cause an annual incidence of 4.6 billion cases, resulting in about 2.2 million deaths annually [1]. Assuring good water quality can be a challenge since it demands interventions from several sectors and professionals and at different levels of the water supply system, from the catchment source to ‘the end-of-pipe’ consumption. There is presently a great concern with both the quantity and the quality of water available for human use and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals have included the improvement in access to safe water, especially in developing countries, as one of its goals for 2015 [2]. Currently, almost 900 million people globally lack access to safe water supplies [3] and much of our wastewater flows untreated into receiving waters [4]. Approximately 46.3% of deaths (3.5 million) and 9.1% of the Disability Adjusted life Years (DALYs) — 135 million — worldwide are attributable to unsafe water and poor sanitation and hygiene [5]. There are many drivers affecting water quality and availability: population growth, poverty, governance, economic activity, technological capacity, investment in infrastructure, environmental degradation, life style and climate change. The United Nations agencies have projected that, by the middle of the 21st century, from 2 to 7 billion people, in up to 60 countries, will be water-scarce [6]. In this review we discuss briefly the ‘water–health nexus’, stress the importance of water quality indices for Public Health and discuss the need for integration of water data with health, social and environmental datasets.